A Message to High School Students During This Covid-19 Summer

2020 has been a year of upheaval thus far! There have been many things that are out of your control: remote school, cancelled extracurricular activities, social distancing requirements, cancelled standardized tests, and a significant reduction in in-person summer opportunities. Remember that colleges will understand that these things were out of your control! Admission officers will account for the disruptions caused by Covid-19. (Check out this Washington Post article about what colleges want – and don’t want – to see from applicants in the Covid-19 era.)

However, colleges will still expect you to do something constructive during this challenging time. This is consistent with their appreciation for students who demonstrate a “growth mindset.” So, think about what you can do this summer to pursue an interest more deeply, or volunteer your time within your community, or advocate for a cause that is especially meaningful to you.

While many colleges are waiving test requirements for rising seniors, a good test score will strengthen your application. Rising seniors, if you do not already have a score you are happy with, talk to your counselor about whether you should use the summer to work on standardized test prep and take a test this fall or whether you should aim for colleges that are waiving test requirements and skip the ACT/SAT testing. Rising juniors, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the longer-term about which colleges will remain test optional or not, so use the summer to work on standardized test prep. It’s hard to predict how the future ebb and flow of Covid-19 will potentially disrupt future test dates, so aim to do your testing early — in November, December or early 2021!

Rising seniors, you should be finalizing your college list. Rising juniors, use the summer to begin researching colleges. Make sure you take the time to visit colleges of interest remotely; there are many resources out there with which to do this! Talk to your counselor if you are having trouble accessing these resources.

And, finally, read – for pleasure, for learning, for keeping aware of current events!

Here are 2 interesting pieces – a video and an article – that provide excellent advice to rising seniors, but are applicable to rising juniors as well.

Whatever happens this summer and fall, these uncertain times are a good opportunity to practice and embody characteristics that will be extremely useful to you in college – and in life, really! Adaptability. Compassion. Critical/Analytical Thinking. Discernment. Empathy. Self-reflection. Thinking outside the box. Creativity. Integrity. Independence.

Waitlist Wisdom

From the Desk of Andrea van Niekerk, College Admission Counselor…..

It used to be that at the end of each application season students got thick envelopes that signaled their acceptances, or thin envelopes that dashed their hopes. With most decisions now online, there is less warning of what to expect on notification day. But whether the outcome is a happy or a sad one, it offers clarity.

The same is not true, however, when students are waitlisted! Instead, they feel themselves in a twilight zone where being admitted seems increasingly unlikely, but the door still remains tantalizingly ajar.

So what does it mean, and what are they to do about it?

  • Waitlists are how colleges hedge their bets against the uncertainty of knowing how many students will say yes to their offer of admission. Yield matters to colleges – too many students and they end with crowded dorm rooms and laboratories; too few and their budgets suffer. So they admit more students in the first place than they will have space for. In 2018, for example, Emory University accepted roughly 5,000 applicants for an 18% admit rate. But Emory’s first year class that year had barely 1,400 students – so the University had built into the accept rate a huge buffer already, knowing that historically its yield was not quite 30%! In other words, Emory admission officers knew that less than a third of students would accept its offer, and admitted enough students to cover any shortfall before they even got to the waitlist!
  • Waitlists further add to a college’s buffer against under enrolling students. In 2019 about 43% of colleges used one (private and public, although more so the former). Waitlists don’t just fix the size of the class, but can also help colleges ‘correct’ for shortfalls in their institutional goals – female mathematicians; boys; first-generation applicants; underrepresented students of color; and others.
  • And sometimes waitlisting students allow admission officers to recognize applicants whom they deeply admired even if they could not academically admit them – and in truth, it can help make those wrenching choices a little less painful.

From the perspective of a waitlisted student though, things look different. Nationally, colleges admit about 20% of students who chose to remain on waitlists. But according to NACAC, the national admissions organization, at selective colleges it drops to a scant 7%. At the end of the 2018 season, for example, Emory had also waitlisted just as many students as it had accepted. Of these, about 2600 chose to stay on the waitlist, and none were accepted. Others with long waitlists with no good news at the end of it included MIT, Dartmouth, and Macalester.

These figures suggest that the waitlist is indeed a very long shot. But some schools in some years do accept students from the waitlist – Georgetown, for example, took 50 for a waitlist admit rate of 3% and Oberlin took 83 (7%). What to do then if you find yourself on your Dream School’s waitlist?

  • Start by carefully reviewing and evaluating all your offers of admission from other colleges. Give yourself a solid foundation by accepting the offer that seems best for you. Send in a deposit, with the understanding (and parents’ agreement) that you will forfeit that deposit IF (and it is a very big if!) your Dream School accepts YOU from its Waitlist.
  • Decide if you even want to stay on the waitlist! You can absolutely opt out, get on with life and become excited about a college whose offer of admission shows how much it values and wants you! Remember, there is no one institution that is the perfect (and only) “fit” for you; there are many. So, consider investing in another school and move on.
  • If you do stay on the waitlist, remember you may not hear back from your Dream School about a final decision until well into the summer. Be sure that you understand the fine print of the college’s waitlist offer. Find out, for example, if there would be a change in housing options or in your likelihood of receiving financial aid.
  • Next, let the admission office of Dream School know, by whatever means specified, that you will indeed remain on the waitlist and attend if accepted.
  • If the college allows it, follow up with something more personal and passionate – a letter or email that makes your commitment explicit and sets out the reasons why the college remains your Dream School. Include any updated information about your strong spring grades, new awards, work experience, and extracurricular activities. An additional letter of recommendation from a teacher, guidance counselor, or alumnus could be helpful, as could a return visit to campus, though you want to avoid pestering the very people you want to impress!
  • You might even declare yourself willing to enter the college in January, after the first semester ended. This is not a good option for everyone, but some colleges do offer a Spring intake.

Above all, continue to be positive, study hard, get good grades, and stay involved with all of your extracurricular activities. Enjoy your last days of high school – soon they will be in the rear view mirror as you race off into your future at a college you will quickly call home!

Is Early Decision Right For You?

Early applications were initially intended to help students signal their commitment to their top choice school. Over time though, the early application system began to reproduce all the stresses and strains of regular decision, only earlier and for an extended application period.  Now there are a variety of early application choices: Early Action (open choice and single choice), Early Decision, and second round Early Decision applications. Early Decision and Early Action application deadlines are usually in November, and students are typically notified of the admission decision in December.  Each early application option offers pros and cons.

This blog focuses on Early Decision (ED) applications.  An ED application is a binding commitment to one school. If accepted, you will be expected to attend, and thus you must withdraw any other applications.

Applying early can be an effective admissions strategy for many students. It is most appropriate for a student who:

  • Has researched colleges extensively
  • Is absolutely sure that the college is their first choice
  • Has found a college that is a strong match academically, socially and geographically
  • Meets or exceeds the admission profile for the college with respect to standardized test scores, GPA and class rank
  • Has an academic record that has been solid over time

Early Decision may be less appropriate for students who will absolutely need financial aid to attend college and will benefit from comparing financial aid offers from other colleges, unless your first choice college is one of the colleges that pledges to meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need.  (See: http://www.thecollegesolution.com/schools-that-meet-100-of-financial-need-2/.)

More and more, colleges are accepting an increasing proportion of their incoming freshman class through Early Decision (ED) applications.  Click here (https://ogontz.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/2016-early-decision-vs-regular-decision-acceptance-rates-chart-8-21-16.pdf) for a document that compares ED acceptance rates to Regular Decision (RD) acceptance rates for over 200 American colleges and universities. The document also gives the percentage of each institution’s freshman class filled through ED.  You will note that many prominent colleges fill 1/3 to 1/2 or even more with ED applicants, which significantly reduces the number of spaces available for the much larger pool of students who apply Regular Decision.

It’s important to reiterate that you should apply early only if you are as ready to present your credentials to the college in October or November as you would be later in the fall. If you want to re-take the SAT or ACT you didn’t do so well on, or get your History grade up, you might want to forgo applying early in order to buy yourself some more time for improvement until the regular admissions deadline.

If you plan on applying early, you need to start all facets of your admissions process early. Make sure you have lined up your recommendations and completed all required testing before the deadlines. Be ready to present yourself as a solid candidate. Above all, make sure you indeed want to attend the school to which you are applying early.

For more information about Early Decision, see:

http://blog.prepscholar.com/what-is-early-decision-should-you-do-it

http://www.thecollegesolution.com/applying-to-college-early-decision/

By Carolyn Stewart

Start Your College Financial Aid Process NOW

As you are excitedly exploring college websites and imagining yourselves as incoming freshmen next year on the campuses of your choice, many of you (and your parents!) are probably also concerned about the rising cost of college attendance.

There are two options that can help families in facing the cost of college – merit scholarship aid and need-based financial aid. Students/families should consider applying for both. Merit scholarships are awarded to students based on their talents and not on financial need. These talents may include athletics, academics, musical skills or commitment to service. Merit-based money is a measure of how much a college would like a student to attend and is unaffected by the wealth or the need of the student’s family. Many of the most selective private colleges, however, do not award any merit-based aid. Need-based aid is based on a calculation of a family’s demonstrated need. In other words, the cost of attending a college minus the estimated contribution a family can make to cover that cost (EFC) = demonstrated need.

If you think you will need financial assistance in order to attend the college of your choice, there are things you and your parents should do now to prepare for the process of applying for financial aid.

  1. Start gathering and organizing your financial documents and tax information now. Beginning in 2016 for aid applications for the 2017-2018 award year, families will use the prior prior year (PPY) income and tax return information. This is great news, since most families should have their 2015 tax returns already submitted. Use this 2015 income and tax return information on the Net Price Calculators described below and to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile in a timely manner.
  1. All colleges and universities are required to put a Net Price Calculator on their websites to help families calculate their estimated family contribution (EFC), given the specific costs of that institution. You can also find a general net price calculator on the College Board’s website at http://netpricecalculator.collegeboard.org/.
  1. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the online application used by U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for financial aid from the U.S. federal and state governments. It is used by colleges and universities to distribute need-based financial aid. It is also used by many institutions to award scholarships and merit-based aid. It is important to complete the FAFSA even if you don’t think you will qualify for financial aid! 

    International students are not eligible for the U.S. government aid programs. However, many schools will ask international students to submit a FAFSA so that they may use the data for assessing financial need. See eduPASS (http://www.edupass.org/finaid/fafsa.phtml) for more information.Beginning in 2016, the FAFSA will be available starting October 1. Complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1. You can download instructions, worksheets and other information about completing the FAFSA at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/resources#complete. The switch to PPY data will allow most American families to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool within the FAFSA, thereby simplifying the application process. Information from the parents’ PPY tax return (normally already submitted to the IRS – 2015 return in this case) would be downloaded and automatically populate the FAFSA. If your student is applying Early Decision (ED), you will likely need to submit the FAFSA at the same time or shortly after the ED application has been submitted. Check each college’s website for deadlines.

  1. Check to see if the institutions on your list require the CSS Profile, in addition to the FAFSA. There are about 200 colleges (mostly highly-selective private colleges) that use this form, which is longer and more complex than the FAFSA. Both U.S. and international students may complete the CSS Profile. We recommend printing out the CSS Profile worksheet (accessible once you establish a CSS Profile account) and filling it in by hand, before transferring the data to the online application. The CSS Profile is also available starting October 1 and will use PPY income and tax information like the FAFSA. If your student is applying Early Decision (ED) to one of the institutions requiring the CSS Profile, you will likely need to submit the CSS Profile at the same time or shortly after the ED application has been submitted. Check each college’s website for deadlines.
  1. If you think you will need assistance with FAFSA or CSS Profile preparation, contact a financial aid expert EARLY, preferably in the Fall and definitely not last minute!
  1. Start exploring scholarship opportunities, both locally and nationally. These are sources of funding that are not administered by colleges but rather by other private organizations, each with its own application process and eligibility criteria. Families should not pay for any of these, nor pay anyone to search them out! Check out this website: http://www.college-scholarships.com/free-scholarship-searches/. Before you spend lots of time applying for scholarships, check with the colleges on your list. Many schools will deduct your scholarships from your awarded financial aid package.

This process can feel overwhelming….. I know, because I have completed the process for both my children! But by starting the process now, getting organized, and having a frank discussion with your family about expectations and financial realities, you will be ready to complete all the relevant forms when the time comes. And, when you have completed the paperwork, reward yourself for your accomplishment!

Written by Carolyn Stewart, Director of Communications

Why Should I Apply to College Early?

With October upon us, it’s time to start thinking about when to apply to college! Besides regular admission, you have the options of Early Action (EA), which can be Single Choice/Restricted, and Early Decision (ED). Usually the deadline for these options is November 1 or 15, but some schools have a deadline as early as October 15. Wait, what?! That’s coming up quickly!

Make sure you check the specific requirements for all colleges to which you are applying! An Early Decision application is a binding commitment to one school. If accepted, you must attend and withdraw any other applications, and thus you won’t get to review other Financial Aid packages. It is usually possible to apply to multiple schools EA, but you can apply to only one ED.

Early Action is more flexible, as it is non-binding. This means you’re not required to enroll if accepted. You can apply to more than one college that has an Early Action application process. However, the Single Choice, or Restricted option, while non-binding, does mean that you are not allowed to apply Early Action or Early Decision to any other schools.

Applying early can be the most effective admissions strategy out there for many students. Since there’s a smaller pool of applicants, generally there are better admissions rates for early appliers, because colleges know you are seriously interested in attending that institution. It can sometimes double or triple your odds of acceptance!

It also may be the best way to “demonstrate interest” in a particular school. It’s like saying, “Marry me! I love only you!” You offer them the sparkly diamond ring, your early application, and you “promise to be true” to your commitment to that school if they accept your proposal. You certainly benefit by knowing if you have been accepted (or not!) sooner because you can plan accordingly.

It’s important to keep in mind that you should apply early only if you are as ready to present your credentials to the college in November (or, yikes, in October!) as you would be later in the fall. If you want to re-take the SAT or ACT you didn’t do so well on, or get your History grade up, you might want to forgo applying early and buy yourself some more time for improvement until the regular admissions deadline.

If you plan on applying early, you need to start all facets of your admissions process early — indeed, NOW — make sure you have lined up your recommendations and completed all required testing before the deadlines. Be ready to present yourself as a solid candidate. Above all, make sure you indeed want to attend the school to which you are applying early. Now take a deep breath, get down on one knee, break out that diamond ring, and propose!

Written by Jilly Warner

Seize Your Advantage: Study at a US University

by Jilly Warner, College Goals’ Counselor

If you take a deep breath when someone asks you where you are from; if you report the temperature in Celsius and the distance in kilometers; if you have friends from over 20 different countries, then chances are, you are a Third Culture Kid!

Being a TCK is cool, especially in the world of US higher education.  With a more than 40% increase in international students in the US now as compared with 10 years ago, and admissions officers who understand educational systems from schools all over the globe, US universities have truly embraced an international outlook.  How does this benefit a TCK?  Considering that almost every US college has experienced a significant uptick in the number of international students on their campuses, and given that most TCKs may have lived in many foreign countries, the result is a rich, diverse, interesting and more familiar environment for their college years.

Third Culture Kids are likely to have one or two American parents who experienced a US college education at a time when the application process was very different.  Now, there are more details to manage, more requirements and regulations to understand, more important documents to gather and all is now handled online.  US parents living overseas may find their child’s school doesn’t offer university admission counseling to students applying outside that country and students may feel lost in the process.

Because of these challenges, more US students living overseas and wishing to return ‘home’ to the US for college are seeking the guidance of an independent college counselor for the college search and application process, which takes a year or more.  These professionals offer a broad array of knowledge, resources and experiences upon which to draw, all perfectly designed to support both family and student eager to enter the exciting world of higher education in the US.

Gaining admission to a top US university is now far more competitive.  Overseas students with a US passport bring a wealth of global knowledge and international insights that resonate with colleges today.  These dynamic young people may be considering colleges in the UK, Europe or the US.  What’s the big distinction?

Choice is the difference!  Most young people enter college unclear about their academic paths and career destinations.  As a college student in America, they have the joy of being exposed to multiple options and students with diverse interests.  They benefit from the guidance of faculty and professional advisors who want them to succeed and help them find their own academic passion, even if that means they change their minds a few times.  Whether emerging from a liberal arts college or a pre-professional program, graduates of US colleges are very successful in both job placement and graduate school admissions.

So consider coming ‘home’ to the US for college, and consider the services of a professional counselor to smooth the pathway.  Carefully check credentials and experience before making that important selection but get started as soon as possible.  College Goals provides a full range of services from highly experienced professionals.  To understand our goals, values and skills, check us out online and on Facebook.

Early Decision Results for College Goals’ Students

With the exception of just of few colleges, most students have heard back from the colleges to which they applied early action or early decision.  Here are the results from our College Goals’ students!!  Congratulations on a job well done!  And, students, good luck on your regular decision applications!

Early Decision Results 2014

 

Number of CG Students

College or University

Early Acceptance

Early Deferral

Early Denied

Amherst College

1

Babson College

1

Bowdoin College

1

Brown University

1

3

CalTech

1

Carleton College

1

Case Western Reserve

1

Claremont-McKenna College

1

1

Cornell University

2

1

Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM)

1

Fordham University

1

Georgetown University

2

Harvard University

1

2

Imperial College London

1

Lehigh University

1

Loyola Marymount University

1

MIT

1

Northeastern University

3

Northwestern University

1

Princeton University

1

5

Purdue University

1

Sacred Heart

1

St. Michael’s College

1

Skidmore College

1

Soka University

1

Stanford University

1

1

Tulane Honors Program

2

University of Denver

2

University of Illinois

3

1

University of Pennsylvania

1

1

University of Vermont

1

Vassar College

1

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

1

Yale University

1

1

College applications: why your major matters

One of the most appealing aspects of an American liberal arts education lies in the notion that a student should not have to commit to any course of study before he or she is ready to do so. Unlike Britain, for example, where students apply to a specific course of study, American students applying to liberal arts colleges may at most be asked to state an academic interest. At many institutions students are in fact only called on to declare a major – such as mathematics, economics or sociology – at the end of sophomore year. (Note that engineering programs, for example, are very different, given the very high credit count of the accredited degree.)

Admitting students without reference to their major recognizes the fact that at college students will change their majors as often as they change their minds. It is also an encouragement to explore broadly and by roaming through an interdisciplinary reservoir, find the different lenses through which they can look at the issues that interest them.

It is easy, however, to confuse such an approach with a kind of academic drifting that lacks rigor and discipline. Many college applicants check the box that declares them undecided about their intended major because they genuinely cannot commit to a course of study. But for many it is simply a lazy way to avoid engaging with college as an academic institution or to think deeply about what they hope to achieve there. It is a bit like embarking on a trip without having wasted too much thought on either the route or the destination.

In the admission process to a selective liberal arts college, a lack of any academic focus can also help to weaken a student’s application. Some colleges will require applicants to express an academic interest even if their admitted students have a lot of leeway in changing majors. An applicant at Cornell’s College of Arts and Science, for example, has to be able to, “describe your intellectual interests, their evolution, and what makes them exciting to you.” Michigan asks applicants to describe how a particular college within the university will meet their academic interests. It may be possible to answer these questions without committing to a specific major, but it will probably be a lot easier to set out an intellectual evolution that has a major at the end of it. When a student is exploring what a school such as Cornell or Michigan has to offer, he or she should therefore spend as much time checking out departmental and program websites, as student activities and housing arrangements.

Even when a selective university does not require any commitment to an academic field, it is still interested in gauging what Stanford calls the “intellectual vitality” of its applicants. A student who wrestles with how best to pursue, for example, an interest in South East Asian culture – is it best to major in Asian Studies, International Relations, History or even Anthropology? – reveals just such a vitality and engagement.

Contrast such an intellectual tussle with a student who limply expresses an interest in mathematics, “because I am good at it”; or who wants to study psychology “because my friends always ask me for advice” and sociology because “I am a social person.” (These actually appeared in applications!) There is nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these ideas and in truth they probably do motivate many students. But they are superficial and thoughtless at best, and applicants to selective colleges do not want to give admission readers reason to doubt their depth. So while high school students should be encouraged to explore the many ways in which colleges differ from each other, from size and location to study abroad options, they should also be prodded to consider, with excitement and anticipation, the academic opportunities and choices at the heart of their college experience.

By Andrea van Niekerk

An Introduction to College Goals

COLLEGE GOALS is a highly qualified university admission consulting practice specializing in counseling families interested in higher education opportunities in the United States. We accept both U.S. and international students from around the globe.

Students benefit from the collective knowledge of a veteran Ivy League Associate Dean; two professionals each of whom has worked for more than a decade as associate directors in admission at major American universities, coordinating the review of international applicants; and an educator trained in test preparation with extensive experience in supporting homeschooled and alternatively-educated students, and who advises on college-aware preparation for younger students.

We share our knowledge about every aspect of college admission. Our focus is on our students’ academic success, and on their personal satisfaction.  Our students not only get in, they thrive.  Our Internet and phone-based counseling offers students and parents maximum flexibility and rapid, responsive, personal guidance through every step of their college search and application process.

COLLEGE GOALS is ready to help exceptional young people, from any part of the world, who are eager to take up the challenge of personal and global responsibility that the privilege of an excellent higher education invokes.

Whether your interest is in neuroscience or playwriting, economic modeling or environmentalism, the choices and decisions you will make, shaped by the learning that you are seeking, will influence society and the globe itself.  That is such an awesome privilege and opportunity!

We are here to help you develop and articulate your dreams, and forge a path to build the skills to match your goals.

www.CollegeGoals.com                           info@collegegoals.com                          401-454-4585

On writing your college essay

As we enter July, rising seniors should be giving serious thought to the college application. Many of you will not find this a happy thought, since starting the essay seems so intimidating!

There is certainly no shortage of good advice on the topic.  On the College Board‘s website, for example, Dean Schmill of MIT advises you to be honest in your self-presentation and to read the instructions.  Dean Brenzel of Yale reminds you to be authentic and to have your essays read by others who know you well. Dean Merrill of Connecticut College reminds warns that crafting a good essay takes time and you should make good use of the summer.

This last bit of advice is particularly important.  Students dream of an endless summer, but the break in your exhausting routine of homework and activities is actually short-lived. July is therefore a good time for some tips on writing your college essay:

•    On choosing a topic: For many of you, identifying the topic will seem the hardest part. The Common Application gives you six prompts to choose from, including a “topic of your choice.”  In other words, you can really write about anything under the sun because the topic is merely the vehicle for a larger story: what to tell an admission reader about yourself.  Whether you choose to write about a book, a person or an event, the admissions committee has at best passing interest in that subject, and will instead try and decipher what the essay tells them about you.

•    On controversial subjects and funny stories: Admission officers reassure students that they are free to write on any subject as long as it is honest and authentic, but there are clearly some subjects that will not work as well as others.  Few teenagers are deft enough to handle controversial subjects like their positions on abortion, presidential politics or foreign wars, with more depth than dogma.  Funny is good, but it works best if your unknown reader actually shares your sense of humor.  As with any writing, keep your audience in mind: admission officers are educated adults who are unlikely to share the social tastes of teenage girls and locker room boys, experienced enough to have read countless essays on every topic under the sun, and are above all led by the needs of their institutions.

•    On writing well: It is hard to separate what you are saying from how you say it.  With a college essay good writing is especially important since admission officers are also trying to gauge something about your academic preparation and intellectual depth.  This is not the moment to try and impress by choking out long words and unfamiliar phrases, and you are well-advised to follow the advice of William Zinsser in his On Writing Well, when he warns against the tendency to “inflate and thereby sound important.”

The American personal essay is unique in the world of university admissions. It is not as important to selective colleges as a student’s academic performance – as admission officers like to say, a good essay can help heal the sick but it cannot resuscitate the dead.  It is nevertheless hugely significant in applicant pools where many students share similarly high achievements and equal evidence of hard work. And in the process it gives young people with very busy lives a moment to reflect on the opportunities and meaning of those lives.